If you ever met Allen “Conway” Goodman, chances are you remember it.
The Vernon Hill resident died Dec. 26 at the age of 87, but his legacy will live on for many years in Halifax County.
“If everyone took Conway as a model, the world would be a much better place,” said David Dunn, the first Scout who earned the rank of Eagle Scout under Goodman’s leadership, in the 1960s.
Goodman was best known as the Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 410 from 1961 to 1997, and led an estimated two-dozen young men to earn the highest rank in Scouting — Eagle Scout. Scouts must earn 21 merit badges and complete a service project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
“He pushed his Scouts to make Eagle Scout before they turned 16, before they got the car and the job and girlfriend,” said the Rev. Bill Wilkins, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Vernon Hill.
Paul Greenwood became an Eagle Scout in the 1960s under Goodman’s wing. He has memories of a weeklong water ski trip to Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, during his time in Scouting, the Scouts’ reward for earning their merit badges. Greenwood learned to water ski through trial and error, “swim or drown,” as he put it.
Goodman led the Scouts on adventures they normally would not have had the opportunity to have in Halifax County, from water skiing and snow skiing to mountain climbing and caving. The Scouts learned survival skills and life lessons along the way.
“He taught us to march, he taught us to shoot, he taught us to be better people,” Greenwood said.
Making a grand entrance at a Scouting jamboree is one of Greenwood’s favorite memories of Goodman.
“Conway managed to acquire a black Cadillac limousine. He would take us to jamborees in this limo pulling his boat,” Greenwood said, with a chuckle. “Fifteen boys would pile out of the limo, and that was amusing to see the other troops’ reaction, ‘Who are these guys who can afford a Cadillac limousine?’”
Goodman could be a larger-than-life character, but he knew when to come down to earth to teach lessons to his Scouts. Dunn said Goodman related to him and his fellow Scouts as peers, but under the same token, they always knew who was in charge.
“He taught us not only the Scout stuff, but he taught us most importantly to laugh at yourself and not at other people,” Dunn said. “He cared about us as individuals and never showed favoritism. Everyone was treated equally.”
Only a few years his senior, Goodman was a “big brother and a father figure” to Dunn, and likely many others. Goodman and his late wife Jean never had children of their own, but they treated the boys in Scouts as if they were their own children.
“The Scout troop was their idea of an extended family. Jean always said those were her kids,” Greenwood said.
Goodman was a leader in the community overall, not only to his Boy Scouts. A salesman by profession, Goodman always made a point of introducing himself to newcomers in the community, and tried to get them to join the Ruritan Club, or get involved in other community activities, Wilkins recalled.
“We have lost a very inspirational and motivational person to Halifax County,” noted Letha Coleman, a Cub Scout master in the Oak Level community. “He [Goodman] produced many leaders in this community. He was truly a solid rock in the community.”
Coleman remembers Goodman’s outgoing personality and sense of humor.
“He truly never met a stranger,” Coleman said. “He always had a joke. He would just walk up to someone and say, ‘I thought I had never met anyone as ugly as you, and then I met your brother,’ and you always knew he was joking.”
All jokes aside, Coleman believes continuing the tradition of Scouting in the Vernon Hill community, using the model of selfless leadership that Goodman embodied, is important.
“He [Goodman] would encourage the Scouts to do activities to better their community to benefit the people that were living there,” Coleman said. “I think it’s important to teach young individuals that they should be kind to others, that they should do good deeds without expecting anything in return, carrying out the Scouting values that are good for everyone.”